Having the ability to delegate effectively can make or break a leader. Knowing which tasks retain and which to pass on is crucial for maintaining an effective workforce. However, this article aims highlight that delegation is not always the best approach to take, especially when saving time is the primary goal.
One of the main reasons leaders delegate is to save themselves time. It helps them manage their workload and allows them to focus their attention on more important tasks. But when you think about it, delegation may be saving the leader time, but it isn’t saving any one else any time. Ultimately, by delegating the leader is simply moving the task or problem for another person to deal with.
Typical Delegation Pattern
If a CEO has a task to complete, which they do not have time for, they will delegate it to one of their senior managers. They in turn will treat this new task as priority and will be forced to delegate one of their lesser tasks to a member of the middle management team. The middle manager will do the same and delegate a task to a member of the workforce. However, being at the bottom of the hierarchy, the worker has no one else to delegate to and is therefore left to absorb the additional workload that has been created.
This has two main impacts on the workforce: firstly, they will become over-worked, stressed and unhappy; secondly, they will be unable to cope with the increased workload and additional staff will be required. Both of these scenarios will result in additional expenditure for the business and unwanted disruption to the workforce.
Looking at the example above, delegating in order to save time is complete nonsense. Ultimately the leader is simply giving their work to other people who are often already working to their maximum. Once this reaches a level where delegation is no longer an option it can cause excessive burden on the individuals involved resulting in further negative impacts on the organisation.
Emphasising the Issue
I am not suggesting that leaders should never delegate as there are some clear advantages such as empowering staff and providing people with opportunities for challenge and development. Also some employees may not be working to maximum capacity and will be capable of absorbing some of the additional workload. But when considering delegation from a time-saving point of view, it has no positive impact on the overall collective time of the organisation. I would even go as far as proposing that delegation for the purpose of saving time is actually quite a selfish and intrinsically-focused leadership strategy to adopt.
Therefore, before delegating a task to save ‘yourself’ time, try to think about how the task could be performed in a more efficient way to save ‘everyone’ time. If you have an issue to deal with, how could you ensure the issue does not occur again? If you are constantly pestered by staff or customers about a specific topic, what could you do to better inform people so as to minimise the pestering? If a task requires a significant amount of time to complete, what could be changed to make the process more efficient? This should be the leader’s first chain of thought prior to any delegation for time-saving purposes.
Considerations for Delegations (that rhymes!)
Many things can be considered prior to delegation and I have outlined a few here…
Processes – Many business operations run on legacy, and by this I mean we do things because ‘that’s how it’s always been done’, or we do things because ‘that’s how everyone else does it’. Look at the process involved and try to identify how it could be improved to save time. Some stages of the process may not be needed or some could be combined. If a specific stage does not add any value to the process it should be removed or adapted.
Technology – Utilising technology in an effective way can dramatically save time for many tasks. Being aware of the range of technology that is available for the specific tasks you are required to complete is important for identifying areas for improvement. Much of this technology is also highly affordable or even free to use.
Incorporating Flexibility – Where possible ‘crisis windows’ should be incorporated into daily schedules to ensure leaders have some wiggle room to be flexible with their time. These are windows of time throughout the day or week which are assigned for dealing with unexpected issues or tasks. When additional work is allocated the leader will have additional capacity to complete it. This may not always be possible due to strict work routines but it is definitely a case of long-term costs of excessive delegation far exceeding short term costs of additional time allocation.
Time Management – Sometimes leaders need to delegate because they are not able to manage their own time effectively. Many leaders will believe they are working to their maximum and need to delegate but actually they are not. Incorporating time management into their working day may actually free up some additional time thus limiting the need for delegating some tasks.
First and foremost, delegation is vital for success and it has many benefits to both the delegator and delegated. However, if it is just being used to save time it is extremely counterproductive. Don’t be a selfish leader, stop and think about how time could be saved for everyone involved, not just yourself. How could you be more efficient in the work you do? Could you help your employees as well as helping yourself? Seeking improvement should always be priority over delegation when aiming to save time. Summed up perfectly by the famous lyrics of Ella Fitzgerald, ‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it”.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please comment below if you have something interesting to say. Many thanks for reading!